Nowhere Near

Last night the volume in the house got a bit loud and heated. It was stupid, it was frustrating, and it was a situation where I just needed to get out. Given the fact it was nearly 11pm, I also didn’t have many options.

I drove slowly through neighborhoods hoping I didn’t look like I was thief scoping my next home to plunder. After a while, I parked in front of a home I was familiar with, but dared not disturb that acquaintance at that hour. Two teenage looking guys on bikes rode through the street and decided to pass awfully close to my car and I booked it out of my hiding spot.

As I went back to weaving through quiet sleeping cul-de-sacs, I realized in sadness that I DIDN’T HAVE a place to go. My boyfriend is a few towns away, and he would have been there in a heartbeat or let me come over, but I didn’t have a non-family member I could trust to bare my soul to and not hate me for crashing their place at 11pm.

I live in a good town. There is generally nothing to fear, and we are ranked one of the top safest places to raise a family. But when night falls, even our town tends to get shady. In the daytime we are family friendly residential and shopping spots, but at night you see what I assume is drug dealing and the like.

I’m longing to have that close friend again. One where I can plan weekend fun with, or chat over coffee with. I have some wonderful acquaintances here, but we just don’t fully mesh. I don’t know if I shoo people away without knowing it or if I’m just horrible at making really close friends? Either way, there’s an emptiness where a close friend should be, but I don’t know how or when that gaping hole will be filled.

I think one of the hardest parts of being a quarter-lifer is having so much change happening around you or to you. Those connections you built in your youth dissipate as people pursue careers, callings, and have families and move away.

I cling to my amazing friends states away, but sometimes, I just need someone near. An actual girl friend with a shoulder I don’t have to metaphorically lean on, because she’s right there.

You’re already so loved.

Part of my goals for today is spread this beautiful message by Sarah Bessey.

Please do take a moment to read it. Please take a moment to process the words. Please take a moment to consider how loved you are no matter your circumstances.

Moments as Souvenirs

The last few years, as the friends closest to me move states away, I realize that the object of my vacations are moments together rather than sightseeing. Since everyone’s so scattered it has been fun to see their new haunts and homes and see what their state is all about.

This past trip was a long time coming. It’s been three years since I’ve seen this best friend and family (I did see her briefly last year when she flew out alone for her grandfather’s memorial.) I pretty much have best friends and then acquaintances, so I don’t mean to have her sound like she’s the only one that matters, but sometimes in life, you are so close to someone you are practically sisters/family. That’s the case here. She pursued a friendship with me during a dark time in my teens where I lost hope in people. From there, I stuck by her side through some heavy stuff in her life. We’ve seen the worst and best of each other, and because of that, we have a bond that is unbreakable. And as her family grew, I was at each birth and am an honorary auntie to her three precious boys.

Her youngest wasn’t even one when they moved, and I was nervous about how long it would take to warm up to me. We skype and my friend mentions me often, but three years is a long time for young kids. When they picked me up, the younger 2 were there and staring/adoring me. I had to stifle a cheesy grin and pretend I didn’t notice it. They wanted to reacquaint with me and that was taking in every detail of what I looked like. The littlest one was talkative and chattered with me right away. The middle smiled but was soft spoken the first day. The eldest was in bed by the time I got to their place, but the next morning, he hugged me and it was like old times.

God has been working great things in this family and it was so neat to just be a part of their week. All of them are doing so well there, and I can’t even selfishly wish they’d move back. I know they are where they should be and they flourish here. I am so proud of the life my best friend and her husband have made for themselves here.

The sweetest parts of the trip were all of us in the car getting eldest brother to school and praying all together before they got to the school. And all of us gathered, mommy, daddy, the kids, and me – holding hands and praying together at bedtime. And of course, hearing three little voices tell me throughout the day, “I love you, Auntie Laura.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 8.38.03 AM.png
Making lego gummies and gummy bears with Auntie Laura.

13327456_10153912144543855_942583420589417820_n
At the waterfall fifteen minutes from their home. Yeah, it’s crazy. There’s water everywhere here.

13393960_10153573764583021_2125635899810280733_n
Pedis with the bestie!

13321771_10153918639363855_2246549071391827880_n
Frozen custard – A local favorite!

13319719_10153912145013855_8028104756737247173_n
Another spot not even 15 minutes away with gorgeous waterfalls.

13256377_10153912145088855_7251662131307088842_n
The rock formations and lushness around it just makes it even more breathtaking.

13256014_10153912144438855_8469449760939632097_n
So much green! So much water!

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 8.39.40 AM
Turtle boy! One of the funniest moments! The youngest is such a goofball! He was playing in his carseat, collapsed in it all buckled in, and started walking around like a turtle.

It was hard to say goodbye the last day. I know I’ll be back, but I also know an annual trip isn’t going to happen, so it’s bittersweet. My best friend and I talk nearly everyday though. We stay close mostly through messaging each other and social media and skyping.

I came back feeling really rested, really loved, and full of love. ❤

 

You are attractive. Incredibly attractive.

Ladies, when’s the last time you thought about how attractive you are? Are you disgusted or accepting of your image of you? Or perhaps you know you are and love it?

I think in a world that wants us to turn heads with body language and sex appeal, or find approval of ourselves through others’ opinions, it’s important to step back and see your attractiveness in your own eyes.

Look at your body, and think of how incredible it is. You can lose or gain weight to better your health. Your body is able to stretch to grow a baby or flex some mighty muscles. Whether you are tall curvy all over, petite and slender, or some other combination, your form is womanly without trying. Your body is powerful and provocative without ever showing any of it off. Your hair, eye, and skin color? All of that is an awesome combination God picked out for you and is part of what makes you unique. There is a specialness in having your grandmother’s eyes and your dad’s nose.

Think of what you’re attracted to when you’re thinking of your boyfriend or potential date material. What is conventional and what isn’t? More than likely, you don’t just like someone for conventional attractiveness. If the idea of tall, dark, and handsome makes you giggle and roll your eyes, then why do you think you need to be some idealized creature? You probably had non-physical traits in there too, didn’t you? Maybe you like someone with a good sense of humor. Maybe you like someone who is confident and fearless. Maybe you like humbleness or sensitivity. Did you throw in common interests? Maybe they need to be fluent in Marvel and DC comics. Perhaps they need to love pizza as dearly as you do. Did they maybe need to share a sense of adventure for the outdoors? Think of how it is not only the physical traits that make you attracted to others. Think of how others likewise see you as a multifaceted person with interests and passions that also connect you with them. Think of how unique you are and how special it is when there is a common bond.

Let’s take a moment to examine how you project yourself. What do you want to say about you, and how do you want that affecting your allurement? Perhaps you are mindful of your vivacity. You’re loud and animated and you love it and they have to love it too. Or perhaps your passion is spiritual and that is a large priority that you project to potential suitors – they know you are firm in what you believe. Perhaps you are nurturing and you show warmth and care and encourage growth in others and you find that someone with that trait works best so you can be more effective as a couple. Do you consciously put anything out there, looking to find someone that appreciates that projection? Are you aware of how you present yourself to the world? Everyone has something great to project, but sometimes we don’t make it mindful or do so boldly.

Lastly, think of what you personally like about yourself. There is always something, and ideally, there should be many things you can think of because you are truly awesome! Accept that others may think these things are pretty cool too, because more than likely, they do!

You are attractive. You are magnetic to the right people. You have control over what you project. You are worthwhile not because others say so, but because you know so. Don’t ever let self-doubt tell you otherwise. You don’t ever need someone’s approval to know so. Know that you are attractive as you are, outside of other people’s opinions.

You are magnificent and beautiful just being who you are, and being true to that attracts just the right people for you.

12 Days until Race Day!

The race and foster festival is almost here! Like, less than 2 weeks away! I’m so excited. The culmination of our year’s worth of efforts will finally be put to action very soon.

I have so much respect for all charity races now, especially ones that are just starting up. It’s A LOT of work, and there are so many people behind the scenes to make it possible.

You start your year hoping that enough donations and fundraising help spread the message and provide you a backbone for all that happens. Then you run into little setbacks and people trying their hardest to secure a race place and work with the city to set the route and all the planning aspects. You work on race cards and flyers and hand them out hoping businesses will let you display them on their community boards and that they catch the attention of people around town and county wide.

This is my first year on board, for the fourth annual event. Our race numbers are the highest they’ve ever been which is a good sign, and God definitely put a hedge around us as other charity races around our timeframe were cancelled due to low sign ups. Now we are just praying that rain doesn’t get in the way.

I have learned so much about foster youth and some of their struggles. And I know what I currently understand is only a tiny amount. I think I naively assumed for a long time that all foster children wanted to be adopted and one of the primary reasons to foster was to adopt. The reality is that the heart of fostering is providing a temporary home and safe environment where you can foster hope, love, and encouragement. Sometimes that leads to adoption, and sometimes that leads to a child reuniting with a parent or a relative gaining custody. Sometimes children do wish to age out of the foster system with no plan of being adopted. Sometimes they place their loyalty in their parent(s) and refuse. Our race helps pay for things the state may not be able to offer, like orthodontia, extra curricular activities, and learning programs – things that help boost self-confidence and prepare them for a bright future.

Next Saturday and Sunday, we go to the site and walk through plans and do our training with volunteers. We need an estimated 200 volunteers, we’ve grown so much!  I’m just flabbergasted at that. 200 volunteers from all over the county have stepped up, local businesses and big corporations have stepped up, and the feeling of community is just so overwhelming. There are so many hearts unified for a great cause. This is what fuels us for next year.

Spring Cleaning

First wave of Spring cleaning: my mind!

Start here this year and I guarantee a better physical decluttering experience of your stuff. You live in your home many hours of the day but you live in your mind 24/7.

Toss out thoughts of self hate and doubt.
Organize your goals and plans for the future so you can access them daily.
Dust off personal achievements so you can see how far you’ve come.
Take care of issues that are keeping you from peace.
Last but not least, save room for good things and don’t let negative things sit in their spot.

‘Rape Whistle’

metal Whistle

 

We met up for sushi. It was a little past noon, midday, and the place we gathered at is in a safe suburbia town. After our meal, we pulled our keys out of our purses and pockets in preparation to leave. As ladies, we all knew keys in hand meant saving a few seconds where we could possibly be distracted and targeted as prey. I know I’ve been told more than a handful of times to have them out and that the end of a key can work as a weapon of self defense if needed.

Diligently shining from all of our keychains was a whistle. Mine, the shape of a coach’s whistle with the little ball inside, all silver. Some of them had flute like whistles that were shaped more like wands in different metallic colors. We all had them. Each one of us.

“Oh hey,” a friend exclaimed, “I see you guys all have rape whistles too.”

It was funny because it was true, but it was also sobering. We were all concerned enough to equip ourselves with a device that basically shrills in case our voices fail us or don’t carry in the midst of harm. If people see a whistle on a guy’s keychain or lanyard, their first thought is that he coaches. If people see a whistle on a gal’s keychain, it’s not even a safety whistle. It’s a ‘rape whistle’.

Most people in their right mind agree that rape is wrong. Because it is. It certainly is wrong. However, even those who believe it’s wrong are divided. One extreme believes that women who may dress or act a certain way or who perhaps venture somewhere late at night are ‘asking for it.’ The other extreme types ALL CAPS flaming messages about people supporting ideas like carrying a whistle, using rape drug detecting nail polish, and locking panties, claiming it tries to shift responsibility on the victims when rape is always wrong and never the fault or lack of preparation of the victim.

There is so much division, and so many limitations are placed on women because rape exists. Whether or not ladies feel safer walking down the street with a whistle, pepper spray, or locking panties, the bottom line is we’ve advanced SO MUCH as a society, but are still dealing with inexcusable rape statistics.

It’s not just women. Men are raped too. The statistics of rape cases involving incarcerated men is shocking. People joke about butt sex in prison and guys ripping other guys a new one, but at the core of their crudeness, what they are advocating is rape. How are we still taking rape so lightly in our culture, in this day and age?

We own our own bodies. They are important, and they are ours. No one has permission to do to our bodies what we do not allow. We are to respect our own bodies and respect others’ bodies. Anything other than yes means no. These simple truths are universally permeable, yet rape still happens. I just don’t get it. I dream that one day in the near future, these simple truths will resound enough to eradicate rape.

I hope that one day, when I pull out my keys, my whistle can truly be a safety whistle, not a rape whistle.

Vitality Corner

I’ve done a few big projects to make my room a sanctuary and here’s a project I’d like to complete next: a vitality corner of encouraging quotes and pictures and many plants.

plant-leaves

I would call it a vitality shrine but some would take offense to that because of the religious connotations people assume with the word ‘shrine.’ It’s not religious in an idolatrous way, but it is reflective and meditative.

I want to use green plants as a reminder of all the things I want to be: 

– I want to bloom as I prepare myself emotionally, financially, and physically for mid-life. 

– I want to reach new heights.

– I want to seek the light even if I must bend and outstretch in one direction towards it. 

– I want to nourish my body with good healthy food and kindness so that my radiant outside reflects a well fed and cared inside. 

– I want to be growing in Christ. I feel tingling in my roots and hope to know and experience even more foundational truths about my God and our relationship. I need to be reminded that what I soak up in my roots helps me react to the world around me and feeds me substance.

– I want to prune and throw away the bad parts so that I can focus on what’s important and not feel inhibited. 

– I want to remember as I’m tending them that people who love me are tending me and to love them back fiercely with that devotion. 

– Like photosynthesis, I want to use good energy to fuel me and have that process produce beneficial things for my environment. 

– My assortment of plants may all look different and need different types of tending and soil environments for best performance, but they all work together to be beautiful although they are diverse. Similarly, I want to see my strengths and weaknesses more bigger picture and know that what I have works together to do even more good collectively.  I want to remember not to judge someone for not having similar outlooks, interests, faith, or personalities, but find ways to admire them and encourage our growth and relationships.

– Like potted plants, I want to accept help when I can’t get what I need from my limited resources. Plants need fertilizer, and I need other people’s wisdom, encouragement, and experiences to help feed me. I may need coaching, programs, and therapy to help me reach my potential at different times in my life and shouldn’t be afraid of needing these resources.

I think just a few years ago I would have thought this notion was silly, but perhaps that is a sign I’ve grown. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

I’m Pro-Life, but…

I’m Pro-Life, but…

1. I understand that most women are smart enough to know abortion is not a means of birth control to be performed several times and that many do not choose abortion flippantly.

2. I understand that while medical conditions are a very small percentage, abortions do happen because of things like ectopic pregnancies…where even pro-life women need to opt for an abortion.

3. I understand that one of the reasons abortion rates have dropped is because of access to birth control (sorry, I know there’s more to hormonal birth control, I won’t touch that in this entry.)

4. I understand that places like Planned Parenthood actually DO MORE than provide abortions – they provide care for several men and women who wouldn’t have access to care otherwise and provide medical and sexual health knowledge.

5. I understand that there are cases of rape and incest where the baby is a painful reminder of something traumatic that happened. (I do believe that baby is innocent, although a product of a horrible event, and abortion robs an innocent life, even in this situation.) I understand that it must be hard to have something happen and be stuck carrying a child to full term that someone may not want.

6. I understand that relationships, age, and financial situations may not always be ideal for welcoming a child and carrying a child to full term.

7. I understand that abortion is not an easy topic to discuss and that everyone has an opinion on it.

I don’t know all these things personally, but I do understand. And that’s why I cannot support the idea of making abortion illegal and defunding Planned Parenthood. 

I suppose with everything I’ve said, you are probably wondering where I personally stand. My stance is that ideally and morally, abortions would only be performed for #2: rare medical instances where aborting the baby means saving the mothers life, where the choice is to either have both die or let one live. And my heart goes out to everyone who carries a child because of rape or incest. I truly care about their hurt but cannot deny the personhood of their child and I know that is messy and others may not agree with me. I’m sorry rape and incest happen in our world. I know that the reality of foster care and adoption is that it’s not an easy thing and that children in the system do not always have a good childhood. I care about that too. But I advocate to choose adoption instead of abortion. That is my personal view.

Here is what I think are more helpful than trying to make abortion illegal or defund PP:

1. Pro-lifers should support local pregnancy centers. Volunteer, donate, fundraise. If you are religious, pray.

2. Pro-lifers should support local maternity homes for mothers who want to keep the baby but have no place to turn to or have a home life situation that puts them in danger. Volunteer, donate, fundraise. If you are religious, pray.

3. Pro-lifers should be open to more views than just public abstinence programs and should take the shame out of premarital pregnancies. Particularly in religious homes, where children may not be educated about contraceptives and sometimes not even given full education on the reproductive system and end up pregnant. A large percentage of women getting abortions identify as catholic or protestant. I personally think some may be getting them out of shame or fear. What if parents and religious communities supported those mothers first and foremost? It’s a given that not everyone who plans to be abstinent will stay abstinent. And ignorance on sexual reproductive health does not help anyone. I believe ignorance is destructive.

4. Pro-lifers should support foster care and adoption. Not everyone may have an ideal situation to adopt or foster, but for those who can, it truly shows your commitment to owning up to what one believes. How can one advocate fostering and adoption and not be open to helping these children in some way? There is always a way to help. Donations, fundraising, taking classes to get a better understanding of the process, being mentors, advocates, volunteers…the list goes on. There is SOMETHING each one of us can do to help the lives of these babies, kids, and teens.

5. Work on things on a personal, community, and state level. That has the most impact. Your voice may only be a whisper on the nationwide level, but in your own city? It can really be powerful and echo throughout the area. And on a one-to-one level? You could save a life or help support someone with a life-changing decision.

There was once a time when abortion was illegal, and when women had very little reproductive rights. I care enough about women as a whole to not want the horrors of that time repeated. I think we need to redefine what is acceptable without making abortion illegal. It’s a hot buzzword during election season – abortion and Planned Parenthood. People may not agree with my stance, but I think we can all agree seeing abortion and teen pregnancy percentages drop is something both pro-life and pro-choice can celebrate together. And we can agree that supporting pregnant women, reproductive/sexual health education, and our local community make a difference.